More and more often we receive news about global warming and related to: melting glaciers, droughts and fires, tsunamis and floods, famine and environmental immigration in search of better places to live, narrowing biodiversity of fauna & flora and the related ever-expanding list of endangered bio-species; rising rates of air, water and land pollution... and we just want to wring our hands in despair.
Everything we could do for the natural environment seems to be a drop in the ocean for such an important issue. In the face of such great problems, we lose motivation to act, not believing in the result of our own work, by taking small steps in taking better care of nature and reconciling it with the increasing level of our life comfort.
However, we encourage you to believe in yourself and the power of even a single person, because the world consists of many individual people and their decisions. Let's believe in the impact of these small steps forward, of the changing of our small habits. Let's do our best here and now! If there are more individuals like us, then the change will be more noticeable. Let us not lose faith and hope, because this is about the future of our children and next generations.
Don’t be ashamed of your small steps and small decisions that you make with a view to helping the natural environment, even if the results of your actions are not immediately measurable or visible.
Today, we want to tell you about our small eco-steps and individual decisions in the SRPOL(Samsung R&D Institute Poland) World Cleanup Day 2023 project.
On the 15th and 18th of September, we celebrated SRPOL World Cleanup Day 2023. This time the event took a slightly different form than in the previous years, because instead of cleaning up garbage, we decided to draw attention to the fact that nature needs to be cleaned not only of garbage, but also of invasive species which through human activities, just like garbage, spread in nature and are taking away space for native and useful species to grow, and they create damage to the natural ecosystem.
We started the celebration of World Cleanup Day 2023 on Friday, the 15th with an action in Cracow, where, in cooperation with the Municipal Greenery Management and our guide – a naturalist appointed for us, we set out to the Zakrzówek Park.
The area of Zakrzówek is a place of occurrence and reproduction of protected species of animals and plants, as well as of high landscape values. There are 12 protected species of plants there, also such species are listed in the Polish Red List of Plants as endangered.
There are also plant communities, listed in the Regulation of the Minister of the Environment on the determination of the types of natural habitats subject to protection: communities of proper rushes, fresh meadows with elements of xerothermic vegetation, xerothermic grasslands.
Among the animals occurring in Zakrzówek, special attention should be paid to those endangered species occurring here on a Polish or even European scale, such as butterflies, bumblebees, amphibians, snakes, dragonflies, bats.
It was here that the urban naturalist led our group of volunteers along an educational path, talking about all the values and threats of the place, at the same time pointing out invasive plant species that harm this ecosystem. Being informed about the forms of fighting together with the invasive species, we worked hard in the field to help remove such popular and harmful plants as Canadian goldenrod. Goldenrod is a characteristic plant with yellow flowers. The plant was brought to Europe from Canada in the XVII, the species was considered an ornamental and medicinal plant. But it turned out that the plant feels great in our climate and is very undemanding, so it very quickly became an expansive weed that destroys local nature. The species grows in a fast and uncontrolled way, creates species-poor communities, where looking for young trees or shrubs is futile. Its colonies cover more and more areas. Compact clusters of plants prevent animals from moving and reduce the diversity of insect species by up to 90%. Wild bees and butterflies are sensitive to the smell of goldenrod and retreat from the places occupied by the plant. Farmed honeybees that use goldenrod waste countless amounts of energy to convert nectar into their food. Goldenrod also affects the soil: it increases the pH of the substrate, nitrogen and carbon content. It also has no natural enemies – its shoots do not taste good either to snails nor insects. Combating goldenrod is therefore very difficult.
It is necessary to remove it from green areas in a planned and regular way. That is why, on the abovementioned day, our hardworking volunteers helped to remove this plant from areas threatened by its invasion, which are extremely valuable in terms of nature. We often forget that man litters nature not only with rubbish in the strict sense, but also through his inattention, thoughtlessness or lack of adequate knowledge and imagination. How good it is that we had a lot of eco-education that day.
The continuation of the idea was an event organized in Warsaw on Monday, the 18th of September, in cooperation with the Municipal Greenery Management in Warsaw. Here, together with a group of volunteers, we found ourselves in Praski Park, which is the oldest public park in Warsaw's Praga district: over 150 years old. Although it changed its borders, its advantages are invariably its attractive location by the Vistula River and rich greenery, including valuable old trees. One major characteristic of the park is the old stand of trees, which consists of over 70 species. In order to support biodiversity, dead wood was left in the park, and the care was taken to preserve the proper and beneficial microclimate for plants and insects. Due to favorable natural conditions, the park is an ecological niche for birds.
After the recommendations of the Municipal Green Board, a species was selected for planting in the park. Our native plant was chosen – the ivy "Hedera Helix". Cold-green ivy is preferred by many species of birds and small mammals and amphibians as a nesting site. Common ivy perfectly tolerates urban pollution, such as exhaust fumes and dust, has a very positive effect on the production of oxygen to the atmosphere. Above all, however, it helps to maintain soil moisture, which is extremely important for the local microclimate and for the population of terrestrial insects. However, we should remember that the same plant, useful in our country and harmonizing with the local microclimate, can be and is treated as invasive in areas outside the native place of occurrence (outside Europe).
On the 18th of September, our volunteers in Warsaw rolled up their sleeves, put on work gloves, took shovels, gardening rakes and spades in their hands, and then all together we started planting new plants in the places indicated by specialists from the Municipal Greenery Management. Thanks to our great commitment, very positive atmosphere and mutual integration, we quickly got this work done.
The SRPOL volunteer day in Cracow and Warsaw on the occasion of World Cleanup Day 2023 was definitely a very positive experience!
We would like to remind once again about the ecological problem of the progressive loss of biodiversity in the world, caused by man.
Biodiversity means the variety of life forms found on Earth – every plant, animal, insect and microbe that make up ecosystems on our planet. These species work together through complex interactions to create and sustain life. Often the disappearance or extinction of one species indirectly affects many other species it is associated with. Almost every aspect of our lives, including the food we eat and the air we breathe, is associated with and depends on biodiversity. Biodiversity loss has critical consequences for humanity, from the collapse of food and health systems to disruptions in supply chains, threatening the foundations of the global economy. That is why our actions and responsibility are so important.
Here again we will return to the strategy of small steps. After all, we are often unable to solve big global problems on our own. However, let us act step by step to the best of our abilities, in harmony with ourselves. Let's look around in our own environment, let's control our own behavior, because we can influence the biodiversity around us. We also have an impact on our environment, on our expectations towards local authorities, on social initiatives.
SRPOL World Cleanup Day 2023 were the days of our small contribution to nature, but also environmental education, joyful integration, good fun and satisfaction.